WWE: Why Rusev Should Not Go After United States Championship


When it was announced that Rusev would be moving over to SmackDown Live as part of the “Superstar Shakeup”, many fans rejoiced in the belief that “The Bulgarian George Clooney” would receive more of the spotlight and better direction for his character. However, there may be another reason to tone down the optimism.

For the most part, SmackDown Live does a much better job than Raw at using its talent properly, particularly when it comes to handing their superstars consistent gimmicks that contain subtleties that the audience can follow over time. The “Blue Brand” isn’t perfect in this regard (see: Dillinger, Tye), but they have built up a level of trust with the WWE Universe.

This trust caused many fans to celebrate the announcement that Rusev, who is seen as an unsung hero on the WWE’s main roster, would be moving to SmackDown Live. The positive buzz around Rusev further increased when he tried to strong-arm SmackDown‘s GM Shane McMahon into giving him a title opportunity, leading many to believe that he could face former partner Jinder Mahal at Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship. This, of course, would mean that Rusev would be turning face, which is something the fans have hoped for.

Must Read: SmackDown Live's Haphazard Mid-Card Booking

It’s been almost a week after the Money in the Bank Pay Per View, and Rusev has yet to appear on SmackDown Live in his return from injury. His wife Lana, however, will already be getting another shot at Naomi’s Women’s Championship after making her debut prior to MITB. It’s nice to see that they didn’t debut at the same time, but it is slightly disappointing to see that Rusev is still on the sidelines.

More from SmackDown

For those of us hoping to see Rusev inserted into the main title picture, there’s a chance we will come away disappointed, at least in the short-term. According to Cageside Seats’s “Rumor Roundup”, Rusev could be placed in the United States Championship picture once he makes his return to television.

Rusev’s return should be happening at any moment now, but he should not be a part of the United States Championship landscape. He’s already been a U.S. Champion, and it’s caused him to be saddled with a stereotypical, anti-American, foreign heel. While Rusev’s comedic timing and one-liners have made it entertaining at times, the schtick has run dry and doesn’t truly play to his strengths as a performer.

If Rusev were to challenge Kevin Owens, who is the current United States Champion, then he could be turned “face”, which is the alignment he should hold going forward. However, Owens is currently locked in a feud with AJ Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura lurks in the background with a couple of pinfall victories over the current “Face of America”.

The WWE seems to be doing its best to save Styles vs. Owens, seeing as how they only had one Pay Per View encounter. The finish of that match protected Styles by having him counted out, as he was trapped under a table and hurt his leg. On the latest episode of SmackDown Live, Owens didn’t even face Styles. Instead, he defeated Chad Gable of American Alpha, and that was an interesting decision in and of itself.

Based on how much he’s brought to the table in every feud, even when the creative staff has brought very little to help him succeed, Rusev should be given a chance to flourish on the main card. He and Mahal already have a built-in history, and the WWE could even make him the pro-American challenger to “The Modern Day Maharaja”. That would at least be more interesting than what Randy Orton has been forced to say.

In a feud for the United States Championship, it would be hard to envision Rusev actually winning. The WWE does whatever it can to protect the likes of Owens and Styles, and I don’t think they are high enough on Rusev to have him defeating those two, especially if they decide to pull the trigger on a face turn. Meanwhile, they have no clear WWE Championship program set in place after Jinder vs. Orton. Logically, Baron Corbin should cash in on Mahal soon to freshen up the title picture and bring in someone like Sami Zayn into the discussion, but, until then, we’ve been forced to see a random Jinder Mahal vs. Luke Harper bout that went nowhere.

Next: Is Finn Balor The New Sami Zayn?

After the time away from television, it would be best for Rusev to receive a new direction as a character and an elevation on the card, because his work in the ring and on the mic is befitting of a championship opportunity (though not necessarily a title run just yet). Slotting him into a battle for the United States Championship? Well, that’s just a lateral move, and it will cause an underrated performer to continue spinning his wheels with a company that is far too hesitant to elevate hard-working talent in the mid-card.